The Jazz Kings in
The New Yorkers
Broadway Jazz with Cole Porter & Friends
Sat, Jan 27, 7:00 - 9:30 pm
Austin Auditorium, LaSells
Why is it that the urbane and sophisticated music associated with many of the Broadway composers during the ‘20s and ‘30s was (and still is) so popular with jazz performers? Beyond the fact that these composers and lyricists wrote marvelous songs, they also wrote music with great chord structures which provide welcome challenges for performers. We have already looked in depth at the music of George Gershwin and Harold Arlen, both of whom had strong roots in jazz. Now we turn to the composers who were writing more specifically for a Broadway audience. We’ll focus particularly on Cole Porter, but will also include some of his colleagues who wrote in a similar vein, such as Vincent Youmans, Arthur Schwartz and Vernon Duke, with perhaps a little Gershwin and Arlen thrown in for good measure, and maybe even (gasp!) some Sigmund Romberg.
Now You Has Cole Porter

It has been forty years since Cole Porter wrote his last song, but his music has never gone out of style. His melodies have become a source of material for jazz, cabaret, rock, country-western and classical performers, in styles that are all at least one remove from the sophisticated New York musicals in which most of them originally appeared. He was more highly educated and had more musical training than most of the other songwriters, and his compositions reflect a professionalism and a flexibility for interpretation that appeals to today’s performers.

Acknowledging his skills, however, one is immediately confronted by the paradoxical qualities of Porter’s lyrics. On the one hand, his command of the English language is astounding. Calling up an incredible array of metaphors, images, rhymes, word play and a persistent use of double entendre, Porter forces the listener to attend to the words in an art form in which they are often subservient to the music. The high points of Porter’s verbal virtuosity are to be found in his “list” songs, such as “Let’s Do It”, and “You’re the Top”, in which a dazzling succession of images seek to surpass each other in cleverness.

But there is the other Porter who aspired to write love songs and ballads. Perceiving that a successful foray into the realm of the formulaic popular song would give him a status other than being merely a spokesperson for the “smart set”, Porter came up with some the most banal and melodramatic lyrics one could imagine. Many of these appear in his long ballads such as “Begin the Beguine” and “In the Still Of the Night”. But they also appear in other songs as well. In Porter’s most popular song, “Night And Day”, are these words;

Day and night, under the hide of me,
There’s an oh, such a hungry yearning
burning inside of me.

which inspired writer Ring Lardner to propose these alternative lyrics:

Night and day, under the fleece of me
There’s an oh, such a flaming furneth
burneth the grease of me,

But Porter was on the right track in many respects. “Night and Day” became very popular, as did other songs with even more turgid lyrics: “Rosalie”, “I Love You”, and, perhaps the most simplistic of all Porter songs, “True Love” (a huge hit in 1956).

Musically, Porter is consistently inspired. He can be identified by several characteristics. First, in an era when the 32-measure format was ubiquitous, he would often opt for much longer statements. Other composers such Harold Arlen did this also, but none so pervasively as Porter. Some of the longer ones, including “Begin the Beguine”, whose 108 measures holds the record, were referred to as his “tapeworm” songs. This did not keep them from becoming hits. He would also rely heavily on chromaticism (the use of half-steps) as a melodic and harmonic technique, as in “Night And Day”. But his most distinctive and pervasive trademark was the manner in which he would shift abruptly between major and minor tonalities (“What Is This Thing Called Love”, “Love For Sale”, “I Love Paris”).

It is possible that this last Porter characteristic is the one that makes him most appealing to jazz musicians, since a major-minor ambivalence is also at the heart of the blues, the major jazz vehicle. But Porter was not particularly aware of the nature of jazz performance, and he made only passing use of it in his songs until, in 1956, he was faced with the challenge of writing for Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong. The result – “Now You Has Jazz” – shows a naive understanding of the style. References to the drums as “skins” and the piano as a “box” reflect a jazz argot long out of fashion. Porter evidently equates jazz with rock-’n’-roll in lyrics that also reflect a subtle New York provincialism:

From the equator up to the pole__
Through the air you hear ev’rywhere
Rock And Roll__
From the east out to the coast,
Jazz is king ‘cause jazz is the thing folks dig most.

It would seem that Porter is most appealing when he is not consciously trying to be. While preparing this program, it became obvious, in listening to all the various performances of Porter songs, that many of the best and most individual interpretations are far removed from the performance style Porter originally intended. Such performances can also differ radically in tempo, phrasing and rhythmic feel, As an example we have included transcriptions of two performances of “Begin the Beguine”, Porter’s longest song, Both are radically different from the original Latin ballad which had prompted Alec Wilder to remark, “Along about the sixtieth measure I find myself muttering another title, ‘End the Beguine’.” Yet both of our examples (not to mention Artie Shaw’s famous version) were very popular when first performed.

We have patterned our program after performances by well-known Porter interpreters. We would venture a guess that of all the composers from the era of American popular song, none is performed more frequently today than Porter. Gershwin and Ellington may be more famous, but the individual songs of Porter survive with a timelessness appealing in any era.

— Stephen Stone, Jazz Kings Director & Conductor

Program
SET I. ANYTHING GOES
 Let's Do It
(1928) Paris
Words & music by Cole Porter
 Get Out of Town
(1938) Leave It To Me!
Words & music by Cole Porter
 Night And Day
(1932) Gay Divorce
Words & music by Cole Porter
 Anything Goes
(1934) Anything Goes
Words & music by Cole Porter
 Sometimes I'm Happy
(1927) Hit The Deck
Words by Irving Caesar - Music by Vincent Youmans
 Begin The Beguine
(1935) Jubilee
Words & music by Cole Porter
 I Can't Get Started
(1935) Ziegfeld Follies of 1936
Words by Ira Gershwin - Music by Vernon Duke
 It's De-Lovely
(1936) Red, Hot and Blue
Words & music by Cole Porter
 Easy To Love
(1936)
Words & music by Cole Porter
 Miss Otis Regrets
(1934)
Words & music by Cole Porter
 Love For Sale
(1930) The New Yorkers
Words & music by Cole Porter
 What Is This Thing Called Love?
(1929) Wake Up And Dream!
Words & music by Cole Porter
SET II. YOU'RE SENSATIONAL
 Now You Has Jazz
(1955) High Society
Words & music by Cole Porter
 Begin The Beguine
(1935) Jubilee
Words & music by Cole Porter
 You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To
(1943) Something To Shout About
Words & music by Cole Porter
 Triplets
(1937) Between The Devil
Words by Howard Dietz - Music by Arthur Schwartz
 I Get A Kick Out Of You
(1934) Anything Goes
Words & music by Cole Porter
 So In Love
(1948) Kiss Me Kate
Words & music by Cole Porter
 Too Darn Hot
(1948) Kiss Me Kate
Words & music by Cole Porter
 My Heart Belongs To Daddy
(1938) Leave It To Me!
Words & music by Cole Porter
 You're Sensational
(1956)
Words & music by Cole Porter
 It's All Right With Me
(1953) Can-Can
Words & music by Cole Porter
Featured composers, lyricists, creators
Irving Caesar, 1895-1996
Howard Dietz, 1896-1983
Vernon Duke, 1903-1969
Ira Gershwin, 1896-1983
Cole Porter, 1891-1964
Arthur Schwartz, 1900-1984
Vincent Youmans, 1898-1946
Ticket/Venue Info
No ticketing information available.
Austin Auditorium
LaSells Stewart Center
OSU Campus
Corvallis, OR
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The Jazz Kings 2000-01 Schedule
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